Saturday, March 2, 2013

"Celebrity" Murders, Teen Angst, Mental Health Diagnoses

I'm still hoping the Jodi Arias trial will disappear. It won't, obviously, but still one  can hope. One of my blogging correspondent, Paul,   commented that nothing gets media juices flowing like a celebrity murder. I agree  wholeheartedly, and cases such as O.J. Simpson's trial have proven this to be true.. 

Yet while a person's death at the hand of another is no less significant because the person who killed or the one accused of the killing or both are not famous people, I refuse to call a killing a "celebrity murder" simply because it contains sufficiently titillating details that Nancy Grace and her ilk choose to give the case major air time.  I refuse to grant Jodi Arias celebrity status. I'm not sure what it is that I would call her, but there is a difference, however subtle, between fame and infamy. Jodi Arias, if she did half of that even to which she has actually confessed,  has crossed the line to infamy.

On a totally unrelated topic, I have mental health diagnoses. My primary diagnosis is PTSD, which came on  as a result of an incident when I was attacked by a male and two females in a school restroom. The planned attack was intended to be rape with perhaps oral sodomy as an addition of insult to injury. The full sexual intent of the attack did not work out quite as the attackers had intended, as a particular physiological response on the part of a male is necessary to successfully rape someone. Just before the rape was to occur, one of those aiding and abetting my attacker  stepped on my leg where it had been badly broken and was not fully healed. This caused me to throw up, which caused the would-be rapist to fail to maintain the required physiological response. I suffered injuries at the hands and feet of all three attackers, including a kick from the would-be rapist to the place where he likely would have conducted his sexual assault had it been physically possible for him to do so.  My psychological response to this assault was initially "Acute Stress Disorder." when therapy and medication couldn't undo the damage and the manifestations of anxiety continued, the diagnosis became "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder."  Cutting to the chase, that's considered my primary mental health diagnosis.

The mental health professionals by whom I've been treated mostly agree that I have a very minor case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  My primary mental health care professional says that not one of us is without his or her quirks, and a tendency to obsess and be a but compulsive happens to be my major quirk, and that I should not take it all that seriously. There may be some wisdom in what he said. For decades or even centuries, there were the bona fide crazies, many of whom were locked up, and then there was everyone else, few of whom were without idiosyncrasies of some sort, with some being more idiosyncratic than others.

One diagnosis that has never been suggested for me by anyone other than my father, who is, for a variety of reasons, about as far from being a psychiatrist as any physician could ever be, is that of bi-polarism. My dad likes to suggest that I'm bipolar. I don't take it too personally, as he accuses others, including President Obama, Mark Spoelstra, the wife of the oldest brother on Duck Dynasty, Bob Saget, Betty White, Jon Gruden,  Celine Dion, and many others of being bi-polar.  It seems that I'm in relatively good company.

My father's quackerous diagnoses notwithstanding, I have felt my emotions fluctuating to a greater degree than I remember  experiencing in the past. Maybe I have PMS. Maybe the barometric pressure is at an extremely high or low level.  Perhaps there was something to  the whole idea of the Mayan calendar, and whoever calculated the whole thing happened to be off by a few months. maybe I'm reacting to the upcoming end of the world.

It all reminds me of an old Billy Joel song, "Summer at Highland Falls,"  except that Jared and romance  aren't a big part of my emotional pendulum swing.  I'll quote the song for the benefit of your cultural intelligence and/or trip down memory lane. 

Summer at Highland Falls

They say that these are not the best of times, 
But they're the only times I've ever known, 
And I believe there is a time for meditation in cathedrals of our own. 
Now I have seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes, 
And I can only stand apart and sympathize. 
For we are always what our situations hand us... 
It's either sadness or euphoria. 

And so we argue and we compromise, 
And realize that nothing's ever changed, 
For all our mutual experience, our separate conclusions are the same. 

Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity, 
Our reason co-exists with our insanity. 
And though we choose between reality and madness... 
It's either sadness or euphoria. 

How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies 
Perhaps we don't fulfill each other's fantasies. 
And so we'll stand upon the ledges of our lives, 

With our respective similarities... 
It's either sadness or euphoria
                                                       --Billy Joel

Exactly what is it about teen angst that causes us  to feel that it is unique to each of us as individuals?  In our minds, no other generation has ever experienced it, or at least not to the degree that we, the present generation, are feeling it.  Is it narcissism?  Or human nature? Or truth?


  1. You've had to deal with a lot more than the average teenager. Dirtbags and shitheads abound in this world.. The trick is to not let them change who you are. You have the right to go and grab your little slice of happiness, whether it means becoming a doctor or a lawyer or goat herding on a south American hill, you decide. No one can deny you this except yourself. We're on this planet such a short time, the blinking of an eye. Make as best of it as you can and laugh everyday, its important. Its better than any drug or therapy. I came across this poem recently 'Desiderata'. Its American, you may already be familiar with it. Its a real slice of cheese but I like this line:
    "the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism."
    And never forget you have Irish blood. We've been shat on, kicked around and abused for years by friend and foe alike but we're still here. They don't call us The Fighting Irish for nothing.

  2. The attack you describe is certainly capable of causing PTSD. Many people used to accuse me of being bipolar because I had tremendous mood swings when I was your age. I was either depressed or hyper. There was a time when I wondered if I was bipolar, too... After I took an effective antidepressant that straightened out my brain chemicals, I went through a change that made my moods more stable. I don't feel the way I used to feel and I don't get emotional the way I used to. I know I'm not bipolar.

    Maybe in time, your chemicals will straighten out, too... For me, what worked besides Wellbutrin was moving out of my parents' house. It was a major source of stress for me. I haven't been that whacked out on stress in years... not even when I was in grad school.

  3. Reading Knotty's post I agree. Get the brain chemical side of things sorted first then you'll be better able to deal with the other stuff. I sometimes forget my own experience.

  4. Paul, I didn't think ANYONE in the world except my family remembered the Desiderata. Someone in maybe the late 60's or early 70's recorded it. There was some guy with really deep voice reciting the words. Periodically the worlds would be interrrupted ;with a choir singing from the actual line of the song "You are a child of the universe, No less than the trees and stars. you have a right to be here.[I think the vocal refrain continued] And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    My favorite lines were from the end. "With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dream, itis still a beautiful world be careful (cheerful in some versions). Try to be happy."

    I know this so well because it was on one of my dad's home-burned CDs that he always took along on car trips.

    We had sort of a running joke. My brother frequently did (and still does, though I've grown more tolerant and less vocal about commenting about every stupid word that comes out of his mouth)say ridiculous things. I always responded with, "Speak your truths quietly and clearly and liste to others - even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story."

    My dad would always respond by loudly saying, "What, Alexis? What was that you were saying?" implying, of course, that I was the dull and ignorant one among us. It didn't hurt my self esteem. He was joking, and I recognize the cognitive pace of a turtle's walk when I see it.

    I DO find strength in being Irish, even if I'm only half. (Sometimes I don't claim my French Canadian half. Seriously, what have they contributed to the world?) Our people have shown resilience through all sorts of adversity.

    1. Shit, I want that CD so bad now...there was something similar a few years back 'Sunsceen' by Baz Luhrmann(the director). When I heard it first I thought 'This guy's taking the piss.'

    2. Paul, that's truly a modern-Day Desiderata. How I wish someone so profound would give the address at my university graduation next year, but my university doesn't hold a schcol-wide commencements. Instead, the ceremonies are held by department. The Powers That Be think it's more meaningful if each name is called and the graduate walks across the stage and receives applause at commencement ceremonies.

      I say, "Screw that!" Giveme Jon Stewart or Colin Powell as a commencement speaker and Later that night I'll walk across my parents' living room and stand on the fireplace hearth holding my sheepskin while my Godfather announces my name and all the relatives and friends applaud.

      My university is really hurting our chances of having notable speakers at our ceremonies and depriving us of life-long memories. Effing nobody U/C Merced got Michelle Obama to speak at their commencement with a simple letter-writing campaign. By doing the same, we could have accomplished at least as much if we had a university-wide commencement ceremony. I wouldn't even care if the speaker were a conservative as long as it were not Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann, or the evil Karl Rove. Bring on either of the former Presidents Bush or either of their wives or Condoleeza Rice and I would be as happy as a worm larva in a bowl of freshly sliced peaches.

      I listened to the various "Desiderata" postings on youtube. I think this matches the audio of the one that was a top-40 hit in the early 70's.

    3. That song. That video. I haven't seen that much cheese since that cheese factory in Switzerland exploded. And the 'dull and ignorant' bit with a picture of somebody's Grandad. Hahahha.

      Vermin Supreme, he'd do the ceremony speech for you. Anyone who can wear a boot like that on their heads must have secret wisdom.

    4. if I were just anyone and someone posted my grandfather's picture along with the words "Listen to others, even the dull snd ignorant . . ." I might be offended. However, had anyone asked me, I would have gladly handed over a picture of my paternal grandfather for that very use.

  5. knotty, I don't take any regular medication except for an occasional klonopin as needed in the middle of the night. I think I'm over the worst of it.

    my dad reminds me that even had it not been for the attack and the smoky house into which I got left by myself when I was too immobile from my track-and-field freak accident to easily get out, there would still be things that bother me. He said everyone is bothered by something but it's at its worst when hormones are raging, and in another five or six years or so, mine should start to level out a bit.

    1. Medications aren't for everyone. My first try at antidepressants was kind of disastrous, actually. I didn't want to take them and then they didn't work well for me. I tried Wellbutrin after three traumatic months on high doses of Prozac and we happened to get lucky with Wellbutrin, which I took for five years. When I was younger, it took nothing to set me off. I'd cry at the drop of a hat. I'd have occasional panic attacks that were very embarrassing and incapacitating.

      That being said, I'm certainly not trying to tell you that you need medication. I'm saying that for me, medication was helpful and helped me level out a lot. But that could have happened on its own at some point, too. Some of that change may have come from maturity. I did eventually get off the meds and don't miss them, except for the fact that they helped me keep my weight down.

      Growing up is hard, even if you haven't been attacked in a school restroom or your aunt and uncle leave you alone in a house that catches on fire.

  6. Oops. I think it's actually "Strive to be happy" rather than "Try to be happy" at the end of the Desiderata.

  7. There's a lot to be said in admitting our mental issues. My therapist says that everyone has an element of some mental disorder. Our life experiences certainly do play a major part in how we process things, and how we learn to cope.

  8. i think almost everyone, mental health diagnosis or not, could use the listening ear of a GOOD therapist. (A bad one could mess with your mind and leave you in a much worse state than you were in the first place.)There are things I like to talk about that no one in my life is particularly interested in hearing. I blog about some of them, but others are too personal. (I know that it probably seems as though no topic is too personal for my blog.) A paid therapist has the obligationto pretend to be interested. I had one therapist when I was 16 who fell asleep while I was talking. I never saw her again.

    My current therapist and I sometimes play tennis or walk along the beach or run during my therapy sessions. It's surprising how much talking can happen between changes of sides of the court, and directly before or after playing tennis. And you really can talk while you run if you go at a slower pace.